Housing is a Core Issue for Global Poverty
The world is experiencing a global housing crisis. About 1.6 billion people live in substandard housing and 100 million are homeless, according to the United Nations.(1) These people are increasingly urban residents, and every week more than a million people are born in, or move to, cities in the developing world.(2)
In the United Sates alone, 95 million people (one third of the nation) are experiencing housing problems including payments that are too large a percentage of their income, overcrowding, poor quality shelter and homelessness.(3)
The Importance of Clean, Decent and Stable Housing
Habitat for Humanity has shown that building homes does more than put a roof over someone’s head. In clean, decent, stable housing:
Through our own programs we have witnessed the transformational ability of good housing, and recent scholarly research confirms what Habitat for Humanity has known for so long. A 2006 report issued by the Planning and Development Collaborative International stated, “Clean, warm housing is an essential input for prevention and care of diseases of poverty like HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, diarrhea and malaria.”(4) An Emory University research study on Habitat for Humanity’s work in Malawi found Habitat housing improved the health of young children as much as water and sanitation programs.
The study found that children under five living in Habitat for Humanity houses had 44 percent less malaria, respiratory or gastrointestinal diseases compared to children living in traditional houses.(5) Good housing in communities attracts economic investment and development and contributes to thriving school systems and community organizations. Good housing is a catalyst for civic activism and a stimulus for community-based organizations. Safe homes and neighborhoods, in which residents are satisfied with housing conditions and public services, help to build social stability and security.(6)
Housing Must Become a Priority
If action to decrease poverty is to be successful, increasing the housing supply across the globe is essential. Adequate housing is vitally important to the health of the world’s economies, communities and populations, yet the percentage of people without access to decent, stable housing is rising.
The United Nations projects that by the year 2030 an additional 3 billion people, about 40 percent of the world’s population, will need access to housing.(7) If we are to prevent such a dramatic escalation of the housing crisis, and if we are to succeed in the fight against poverty, we must support the expansion of housing both as policy and as practice